Can of worms alert: if you’re not in the mood to get into something that might get uncomfortable, perhaps you’d better go here.  Have a nice day.

My daughter’s favorite radio station is The Fish 104.7.  It’s a nice-enough joint, I guess; I listen along sometimes.  I will even play real, real nice and resist the incredible urge to do a riff on their tag line: “Safe for the Whole Family”.  I won’t even ask the question, “is Jesus really safe?”  Or, maybe I just did…but go write your own post; that’s not what this one is about.  No, instead of opening that can of worms, I’m going to open a different one, brought on by The Fish’s promotion of Amy Grant, who’s in town at Family Christian Stores—resist, Byron, resist the urge to do a riff on how much is “Christian” about Family Christian Stores—OK, urge resisted, that can of worms left to be opened by somebody else.

Ah, Ms. Grant.  A little history, here: when I went off to Bible college, I believe the first cassette (remember those?) I purchased was Ms. Grant’s first album, a self-titled offering that was what I think you’d call “Bubblegum Pop” as to its styling, a fun little thing with some songs that ranged from the silly (“There’s a grape, grape joy in Jesus, in the vineyard of the Lord”) to the more serious, I guess (“The Lord has a will, and I have a need, to follow that will…”).  Funny…go looking for that album now, and you get the new, updated cover art (considerably more flattering than the original cover art—but I’ve reproduced the latter).  At any rate, I loved Amy, scarfed up her stuff, overlooked some things that I didn’t care for so much.  After all, Amy was my age (she turns 50 this year, two-and-a-half months after I hit that same milestone; I’m going out on a limb to say that she wears those nearly-50-years a little better than do I, though if I had her stylists and beauty consultants…never mind).  To this day, if you asked me what albums I loved the most, of all I’ve ever owned, I’d have to put “Straight Ahead” and “Lead Me On” very, very high on that list.

At any rate, I stuck with Amy, even when she admitted that sometimes she was…well, let’s say she used a word that indicated she sometimes felt in a way that would indicate she’d like to have sex (shocking!  Christians sometimes feel that way?  My word…), and even when she said that she enjoyed a beer sometimes (what?  A Christian?  No!).  I’ve seen her in concert on several occasions, and on the last occasion, at a Christmas concert sometime in the late 90’s, I actually got to go backstage and meet her, had my picture taken with her, etc.  Yeah, there we are, me and Ame, smiling like old buds.  We make quite the couple, eh?  Golly, did I look like a goof…

OK, so holding all that history in mind, fast-forward to a few years ago.  Amy and her husband of many years, Gary Chapman (saw ’em in concert, in Roanoke, when they toured together, prior to them being husband and wife; in keeping with the theme of “Amy is just a step behind Byron Harvey in life”, she and Gary were married the day after Karen and I), had had some marital struggles, fueled in part by some serious substance issues Gary was dealing with (and about which he has been candid, to his credit).   We’re all sinners; we all struggle with stuff; Jesus loves us all in spite of, not because of, our junk.  Gary and Amy are no different in that respect.

But Amy chose to divorce Gary.  Now, in one very real sense, that’s just none of my business, or yours.  None…in one sense.  What goes on in their home doesn’t affect me, except that any time a professed Christian marriage fails, it’s a shame, and casts a negative light on the name and cause of Christ.  Her rationale was the oft-repeated refrain of “irreconcilable differences”, and I’ll again use exemplary restraint with regard to my feelings on that term, except to say that in a marriage between Christians, there is no such thing.  I say that granting immediately that it certainly “takes two to tango” when it comes to marriage, that there is such a thing as an “innocent party” (not a “perfect party”, of course, but in our parlance, an “innocent” one), that marriage is tough enough when two sinners are married to each other in Christ, and it’s gotta be just incredibly difficult under other circumstances.  But back to the point of this paragraph: in one sense, the circumstances of their divorce is none of my business.

But in another sense, the circumstances of their divorce is very much my business, and the business of every Christian who does things like listen to The Fish 104.7, or who frequents Family Christian Stores, etc., and it is this: while Christians, sadly, get divorced all the time, the standard is higher for those who would profess to stand and sing—or teach—or preach—for Christ.  Now, I’m open to the argument that the standard isn’t as high for someone such as, say, Ms. Grant as it is for me in that regard; I’m not sure I buy it, but I’m open to it.  Fair enough.  But what I’m not open to is the uncritical acceptance and promotion of any person—Amy Grant, Billy Graham, Byron Harvey, anybodyas a qualified and fitting promoter of Christian faith.  And that’s where the rub comes in.  But I’m still not ready to answer the question I raised in the post’s title, because I want to be perfectly, crystal clear before I do:

  • I do not in any way, shape, or form sit in judgment upon Ms. Grant’s eternal soul. In fact, I accept her profession of Jesus as Savior.  One might argue that there is evidence to the contrary, but there’s evidence to the contrary in every Christian’s life—mine included—and so this post is categorically not about calling her salvation into question.
  • I do not claim to have detailed knowledge of her circumstances. What I have are questions, nothing more and nothing less, questions which have never, to the best of my understanding, ever been answered (and I have sought answers; that’s a different post).  Questions which ought to be asked of Ms. Grant, yea, of anybody in this situation.  I do not have answers—but the questions need to be asked, at least before uncritical allegiance is given.
  • I do not make the claim that Ms. Grant’s subsequent remarriage to Vince Gill constitutes adultery. I’ll refer you to the previous bullet point.  It might constitute adultery, but it’s possible that she had Biblical grounds to divorce Mr. Chapman; I simply don’t know.  Do know this: if she didn’t have such grounds, then she is living in an adulterous situation.  Once again, let me be clear: there are many, many professing Christians who are in this situation, and many, many professing Christians who have repented of that sin, and it is my counsel to them—and to Ms. Grant, if this is her situation—to remain now in that situation, because another divorce is not the answer.  But my point is, I don’t know.

And that’s just the point: I don’t know.  You don’t know.  And some things about the situation, I don’t care to know, don’t deserve to know, shouldn’t know.  But prior to encouraging my daughter to listen to Ms. Grant’s music; prior to buying her music myself (and I’m sure it’s beautiful, particularly given my educated hunch that she’s mellowed musically through the years, matching my mellowed tastes); prior to endorsing her in doing what she’s doing, there are some questions that, in my judgment, need to be answered.  Indeed, the failure to ask such questions strikes me as a prime example of one of the most devastating plagues currently…plaguing…the evangelical movement in America: an appalling lack of discernment.  Ironically, The Fish 104.7 was soliciting “Questions for Amy Grant” this morning.

So you know, I was a good boy…

But here are the questions I’d ask Amy Grant:

  • Amy, did you have Biblical grounds to divorce Gary Chapman? I won’t go here into what those grounds are; those of you who are believers probably (hopefully) have some idea of what they might be, even if we might differ on certain particulars.  Now obviously, if her answer were “yes”, most of the follow-up questions would be rendered moot.  I’ll actually assume a “yes” answer for the next question, and a “no” answer for the rest.
  • Amy, was your relationship with Vince Gill completely aboveboard during your marriage to Mr. Chapman, and would an independent, knowledgeable observer of it agree that it was? Again, I stress that I do not know the answer; these are questions, folks.  I raise this one, though, because her former husband has suggested this not to be the case.  He could be lying.  He could be bitter.  But isn’t the question worth asking?
  • Assuming a “no” to the first question (as I will do from here on out), Amy, what kind of accountability to a local church—and its leadership—was in place in your life during the period that led up to, and included, your divorce—and did you submit yourselves fully to this authority? This question is critical, and ought to be critical for all believers: under whose authority—real, legitimate, Biblical authority with teeth in it—do you live?  Are you part of a church, Christian, that is willing (if need be, perish the thought) to kick you out?  If not, you have two legitimate options: one, demand of leadership that it changes its ways such that it becomes a church willing to kick people out, or two, leave that church and find a real one.  Yes, you heard me.
  • Amy, did a church work with you through the process of repentance, confession, and restoration—and then did that church pronounce you restored, and ready again to minister publicly?  If so, what church is that? There is not a bone in my body that believes that a divorced person is forever disqualified from ministering, depending on the circumstances, of course (which again, we won’t get into here).  But when a person sins so publicly, there must be real repentance and restoration; absent and until this, the person is disqualified from holding such a public position of Christian leadership (check that: delete “public”).
  • Amy, particularly given your high profile, do you have an ongoing accountability relationship even now with a church/its leadership whereby you are held accountable? This question relates to the possibility that she’d fall again into the same sin—and to what would keep her from again tarnishing the reputation of Christ in this way (again, I’m only assuming a “no” to the first question, not making any judgment).
  • One more question, Amy (and I ask this to any Christian radio station/publisher/bookseller that would promote her): if a young lady were facing the exact same circumstances as you did in your marriage to Gary, would you counsel her to take the same action you did—and can you justify this Biblically? This goes to questions of “hero worship”, and to her current fidelity to the Scriptures.  If Ms. Grant is indeed ministering for the Lord, then she must be in line with clear Bible teaching.  This question goes to that.

The deeper point isn’t really about Amy Grant at all; it’s rather about some other things:

  • Our obsession as evangelicals with the bigger, the “better”, the more glamorous, the “we’re as hip and cool as the world”—and the way that causes us to gloss over and/or excuse failings in the lives of our “heroes”;
  • The lack of accountability on the parts of so many of our “heroes”, our “Christian radio stations”, our publishing houses, our “Christian” booksellers;
  • The glaring lack of discernment that is being fostered by some of the above, and complicit in this are a good percentage of churches and Christian leaders that just look the other way, at best;
  • The woeful ecclesiology of many (dare I say, most?) Christians, such that the local church is effectively superfluous.

I tried once to address some of these issues with several different folks, including a church that was hosting her concert in the Pittsburgh area (I got what was, effectively, a pleasant brush-off).  I tried to address them with the general manager of the Pittsburgh equivalent of The Fish 104.7; for my trouble, I got the nastiest email I’ve ever received in my life (and frankly, it’s not even close).  I tried a couple of other routes—but everybody wants to sweep questions like these under the rug.  It’s easier just to turn the music up and sing along, apparently…

I want to close with a few words directed toward Amy Grant (not that I believe she’s reading—though she oughta be, right?  If so, hey Amy!  Remember me?): first, I rejoice in the common salvation that I believe we share in Jesus Christ.  I do not hesitate to call her “sister”.  Second, I am thankful for how her music ministered to me for many, many years.  “Grape, Grape Joy in Jesus” didn’t do much for me, but Michael Card’s “El Shaddai” played in my head over and over; “Sing Your Praise to the Lord” reminded me to do just that; about 2/3 of the Lead Me On album hit me from every which angle and both ministered to me and pummeled me around a little bit.  And I could go on in that regard, though time has faded some of those songs from memory, and it’s been years since I’ve listened.  Third, her gifts and talents can, and will, be used by God as they have been.  God uses frail people such as us, warts and all.  If He can use me…  Fourth, these questions, if she’s never answered them (and I’m not aware that she has), need to be answered, and maybe some more.  What a testimony of God’s grace could be wrought from “coming clean” on these issues.  Finally, God’s grace is where it’s at; it’s what it’s all about.  It’s available and lavish and undeserved and costly and free at the same time, and without it, we’re all sunk.  With it, the words of “1974” ring again so true:

Purer than the sky,
Behind the rain.
Falling down all around us,
Calling out from a boundless love.
Love had lit a fire;
We were the flame.
Burning into the darkness,
Shining out from inside us.

Stay with me.
Make it ever new,
So time will not undo,
As the years go by,
How I need to see
That’s still me.

20 responses »

  1. Jack Brooks says:

    Byron,

    At the time all that controversy was breaking, Amy & Gary Chapman’s former church (a large PCA church in Franklin, TN, pastored by a brother named Scotty Smith) issued a church discipline notice. In it, the session said that Gary and Amy had given each other grounds to divorce one another. The message was clear. They were both being censured. Gary re-married, and has already divorced that woman. Janice Gill claimed she found a love-note from Grant in Vince’s golf bag, before Amy was free from Gary. This note was why she confronted Gill about it. Then Amy & Vince went on 20/20 and made up a whole long rationalization about how God had given them personal guidance that they were free to marry each other.

    I don’t feel any respect for either Gary Chapman or Amy Grant.

  2. Bruce McLean says:

    Byron:

    Great stuff. Love the picture. We had El-Shaddai at our wedding. I was watching a biography of Keith Green on YouTube and listened as it was explained that he pulled away from the record companies because we should never sell the Gospel for profit. Another Amen to Steve Camp for pulling out of the industry. I have struggled all my life at to where to get my music. I find it a dilemma. I know that the music I have listened to for many years is not the best. I had stopped listening for about 20 years but started listening again a couple of years ago. I am not sure what is worse; hypocrisy or the old stuff. I have pretty much boycotted the Christian music scene as a choice. I like some Christian music but definitely not Amy Grant. This promotion causes my to think that this is all about the money. There is not enough information for us to make a decision in her favor.

  3. Todd says:

    Great questions Byron. I wholeheartedly agree with you that “God’s grace is where it is at.” I have found however in evangelical circles that we (and I place myself in that category ashamedly) rank sins that Christians commit. There are certain sins that we classify as “unpardonable” as others that we gloss over. If someone commits adultery or gets involved in pornography we typically write them off, no matter the repentance or true remorse they show. We do not however hold accountable those who choose to rob God or gossip etc… (And I do understand that God is the ultimate record keeper). While I agree that it is about God’s grace, it is a subject that many of our brethern, (dare I say Independent Baptist brothers), dont get. Sorry about the rant…just getting that off my chest!

    • Byron says:

      Absolutely, Todd. We do “rank” sins. An interesting question, though, that your post leads to (and I’m not sure I want to get sidetracked on it, but I offer it to ponder): are all sins “equal”? I have an answer…but I’ll let ya think about it.

  4. Derlin says:

    If you’re going to (correctly) credit “El Shaddai” to Michael Card (who also provided Grant with “I Have Decided”), you should also credit Rich Mullins for “Sing Your Praise to the Lord”.

    My local equivalent of “The Fish”, also annoys me with self promotions of being clean and safe. Clean and safe if I am a believing Christian or sufficiently undecided in my belief system. Misguided or even evil if I believe Jesus is nothing more than a nice dead teacher or non-existent fable of a holy man.

    You raise legitimate questions here. Certainly all Christians are accountable to them, but those in leadership or role model capacities are held to somewhat higher standards that require a bit more transparency from time to time. Divorce would be one of those times where openly walking through the process biblically would be a witness of its own.

    • Byron says:

      Absolutely, as to your second point. As to your first, I knew off the top of my head that Card wrote “El Shaddai”, but had no clue that Mullins wrote “Sing Your Praise”. Mullins is a guy I never much appreciated until after he died; I now think of him as one of my favorite CCM artists, in significant part because it’s obvious the man really loved Jesus, and wasn’t in it for the money or the fame.

  5. Christina says:

    I’m posting the following for Christina, a Facebook friend…OK, she was my sweetheart in 6th and 7th grade—to the degree one has a “sweetheart” at that young age—and she raises some interesting points that I will respond to in short order. She wrote:

    Boy, you did open a can of worms! Are you trying to get some more people to unfriend you,lol? I don’t usually comment on things you write but being one of those Christians who have gone through divorce, I couldn’t let it slide. I’m happy for you that you and your wife have a good marriage but unfortunately some of us weren’t (aren’t) so lucky. Divorce is a terrible thing and not something a person enters into without much thought and prayer. It is awful for the children and the couple who experience it. It is something I will have to face God about someday but that will be my business. I am sure Ms. Grant did not make that decision years ago without thought and prayer also and aren’t we to be forgiven? We all have our regrets but try to learn from our sins and mistakes and not judge others.

    • Byron says:

      Christina, before I get to any specifics in responding to you, allow me to preface a bit by way of introduction. Several thoughts:

      • The post regarding Amy Grant was the longest post I’ve ever written, and in reality, was only tangentially about divorce.
      • Divorce is quite a complicated subject, and to write in the detail necessary to answer your concerns would have extended an already long piece by at least half-again as much, it would seem.
      • Divorce is, arguably, the hardest subject for me as a pastor to strike the right balance on. I actually think that, when I refer to it in messages, I do a passably good job—never have had anybody react negatively to what I’ve said, at least not to my face. I tend to say something like, “those of you who’ve been through divorce know far better than do I the awful, traumatic thing it is.” The last thing I would ever want to do—speaking, writing, whatever—would be to be insensitive. Again, because this post was so terribly long, and because it really, at its heart, wasn’t about divorce, I chose not to go into deep detail, cross every “T”, dot every “I”. But being such a difficult subject to even touch on, it’s not surprising that people with wounds from it would be especially sensitive. Needless to say, my intent was not/is not to offend.
      • It is an especially difficult topic to deal with, in part, because it truly touches everybody at one level or another, and such a high percentage of folks very personally.
      • I don’t pretend to know what you’ve gone through, truly.

      Now, all of that said, there are some things we can say about divorce. It’s important, before we even say them, to remind every reader that the context for all of this is the grace of God. It’s bigger than our failures, our sins, our faults and shortcomings, our misunderstandings, our foibles, our struggles. God’s love for us does not change on a whim; He loves us perfectly if we remain married for a lifetime, or if we go through a dozen divorces. We’re not accepted by God on the basis of who we are, but on the basis of Who Jesus is. If you’ve sinned in the situation of your divorce (and I say “if”, because as I said in the post, there is a such thing as an “innocent party”), God doesn’t love you any less than He loves the next sinner in line whose marriage is picture-perfect (as if that existed!).

      OK, here are some bullet points regarding the subject of divorce—and of course, I say these without prejudice, without knowing details of your, or anybody’s, particular situation:
      • God hates it. Most translations of Scripture record this in so many words in Malachi 2:16.
      • It’s never, ever God’s will for divorce to take place (in the sense that not divorcing would be out of His will). Put another way, God never commands divorce; you never have to divorce to be in God’s will.
      • Sometimes, under limited circumstances, I believe (and they’re spelled out in Scripture, though on a point or two, sincere Christians differ), God permits divorce.
      • When divorce takes place outside of those circumstances, it is sinful. I don’t think that we can bend the rules on that any more than we can bend the rules on anything else God calls “sin”.
      • Let me say this gently—again, not knowing your (or Amy Grant’s, for that matter) particular situation: I appreciate the idea of applying thought and prayer to a situation, but no amount of thinking or praying can ever make a sin a non-sin. Again, that applies to any sin whatsoever, and again, I make no accusations; that’s just a Biblical principle that applies in all situations, to everybody, across the board.
      • There is, as I said earlier, always abundant grace from God for every one of us. Period. And thus to answer the question about forgiveness: yes, of course God can forgive—and when we come to Him, acknowledge our sin (rather than, say, justify or hide it), repent of it—He will forgive. Even that needs explanation: we are forgiven of all our sins past, present, and future, when we place our faith in Christ. Our relationship is established, and forgiveness is guaranteed. But when we sin, our fellowship is broken, and we need to confess, repent, and claim the forgiveness that has already been won for us by Christ, in order that we might have nothing blocking that fellowship.
      • The issue with Amy Grant has nothing—nothing—to do with me forgiving her (just in case that’s what you meant when you asked, “aren’t we to forgive?”). She hasn’t sinned against me (and maybe not at all in the matter); if indeed she has sinned by pursuing an unscriptural divorce, she has sinned, first and most significantly against God, then against her former husband, her kids, her new husband, and others close to the situation. The basis upon which I have no interest in listening to her music isn’t about me forgiving her; it’s about the fact that unanswered questions of such a substantial nature render it a very open question as to whether or not she ought to be ministering in the public forum in which she is.
      • I’ve sure made my share of mistakes, sins, etc.—and there’s no prospect in sight that I’ll ever be fully cured of that until I reach heaven! Have I learned from them? Some of ‘em, to be sure…and yet in some cases, I just keep doing the same dumb stuff over and over again. It’s never God’s will that we sin, but He can use our past sins to train us in righteousness, if we’re willing to listen and learn.
      • Finally, to the point of “we’re not to judge others”, to which the answer is, “depends on what you mean”. The most misunderstood verse in all the Bible, it seems to me, is Matthew 7:1, where Jesus says, “judge not, that you be not judged”, because when we look at the immediate context, it is obvious not only that He doesn’t mean what a lot of folks think He means, but that He can’t possibly mean what a lot of folks think He means! All you have to do is go five verses down, to 7:6, where Jesus talks about dogs and pigs, and ask a simple question: is He talking about animals, or is He talking about certain people? It’s contextually obvious that He’s talking about people—which means that He’s calling on us to make judgments that certain people, at least with regard to “holy things”, are to be judged to be “pigs” and “dogs”! So there are some things He’s saying—and some things He’s not saying. He’s not saying, “you are not to make value judgments”. He’s not saying, “you do not have the authority to call an action ‘wrong’”. He’s not saying, “there’s no place for reaching a judgment about a person”, even. What He is saying, I believe, involve several things: “you cannot, and should not try, to render final judgment upon anybody.” “You do not have the ability—so don’t try—to judge what’s really in a person’s heart” (I hope, by the way, that you can see I’ve been careful to do that neither toward Amy Grant, nor toward you or anybody else). “You ought not “lead with judgment”.

      So to sum up: God has a righteous standard for our behavior, a standard that doesn’t change. We all fall short of it, by miles. None of us ought to pretend—to ourselves or to others—anything different. None of us is beyond the reach of the grace of God; none of our sins—nor all of them lumped together—can amount to more than a drop in the bucket in comparison to the ocean of His grace. None of us, then, ought to attempt to pronounce final judgment upon another person, but rather to treat them not only with dignity and respect, but with the same grace with which God treats us. I hope that’s shone through in this reply, Christina.

      My post regarding Amy Grant was, I hope, filled with grace; I certainly meant it to be, though if anyone thinks otherwise, I’d be happy to entertain that thought. But grace doesn’t preclude the asking of hard questions—in fact, there are times when grace would demand it, and anything less would be faux grace, cheap grace, dimestore grace, a counterfeit of the real thing. I’d like nothing better—nothing—than to be confident that Ms. Grant is completely right with God on this matter, because frankly, I’d like to listen to some of her music again and not have those nagging questions…nag; beyond that, and much more importantly, for her sake and ultimately, for God’s glory, I’d like the very same thing.

  6. Joseph says:

    Many answers to your questions are in the life styles both Amy and Gary lived before they got a divorce, especially Amy’s own words and christian philosophy during her private and professional life. It is quite clear she has lived, and even boasted of, an existenstialistic type of christian lifestyle. Her comments over and over again betray someone who was not seeking to walk in the wisdom or discipline of scripture. She quite clearly chose to please the world and the flesh, and has made up a multitude of excuses to excuse her behavior. Therefore, if she were to answer your questions, rest assured it would be the same ole, same ole, spin and excuses.
    She has followers who erroneously and ignorantly pull the “judge not” card. No one is judging Amy, but people have to answer to their own conscience as to whom and what they will patronize, and how they will teach their children about the behaviors of high profile christian personalities.

    Amy is a lost soul. She and many other ‘Christian’ worldly celebrities absolutely need the grace of God, but she, and they, need to get real with the Word of God, pull their fingers out of their ears, and genuinely seek His help. And it is the same for so many in the churches.

  7. Patrick says:

    “Nothing is ever really settled, unless it is settled right.” ~ Rudyard Kipling

    For most of us we will never have a face to face with Amy Grant or most other Christian celebrities. We will not move in their circles and thus be required to make decisions in reference to them which will affect our personal lives. So being ‘overly’ concerned about their ways and past behaviors isn’t wise or pleasing to the Lord. Now don’t misunderstand, I fully agree with the above comment:

    “…but people have to answer to their own conscience as to whom and what they will patronize, and how they will teach their children about the behaviors of high profile christian personalities…”

    And the public must hold to ‘caveat emptor’ as a rule of thumb. Patrons have an unmistakable right to know the truth about the celebrities they embrace. But there is a difference between being responsible in the above manner or simply being angry, resentful, carelessly judgmental, and disturbed about another person’s life choices and sins; especially when it is someone most of us will never encounter. Let us do the first and cast away the latter.

    I used the quote from Rudyard Kipling because it is a constant, a verity without respect of persons. Amy (like anyone else) is required to make sure that things which have gone awry in her personal and professional life are ‘settled right’ before she can expect complete healing and acceptance among the entire christian community. Things have to be settled right! That’s the way it is for everyone.

    We pray God’s salvation to you Amy and others. We all need help and healing in one way or another. By His grace may He help you to realize Rudyard Kipling’s counsel in your own life; and in such a way that is fully pleasing to Him. That’s all that really matters.

    Patrick

  8. Mike says:

    Byron,

    Excellent post and response on divorce in general to Christina. I have exactly the same issue with Ms. Grant, and almost the same experience with her music. I came to your blog looking for more information about her as I saw her being interviewed by Breakpoint.com, which surprised me. The lack of discernment in the western church is at an epidemic level, and as a pastor myself, I know that I have yet to teach effectively on the issue.

    Do you have any suggestions that you have found helpful in guiding your own congregation to be more discerning?

    God bless,

    Mike

    • Byron says:

      Wow, good question. Don’t know that I’ve really done a lot per se on the subject; hopefully, folks have “caught” a good bit of it thru the various snippets I bring into messages with decent regularity. I do tend to warn people as much of dangers “within the fold” as those without; I’ve certainly hit the “health and wealth gospel” a lot more frequently than I have, say, homosexuality from the pulpit. Give examples of discernment; prompt folks to think critically about things. I think in one sermon I might have mentioned that along with MTV and some other channels, I had at one point blocked “Christian TV” from my list of channels (because a high percentage isn’t “Christian” at all!).

  9. Luke says:

    “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
    –Acts 17:11

    “A wife is married to her husband as long as he lives.”
    –1 Corinthians 7:39

    If people today would examine the Scriptures they would discover that MARRIAGE IS FOR LIFE.

    “Everyone who puts away his wife and takes another, is a false husband and he who is married to a woman whose husband has put her away, is no true husband to her.” Bible in Basic English–Luke 16:18

    After he takes another wife he becomes a FALSE husband to the second wife and the man who takes the woman who was put away by her husband is NOT her true husband.

    “For be ye well assured, that so many as are coupled together OTHERWISE than God’s Word doth allow are NOT joined together by God; neither is their Matrimony lawful.”
    -–Book of Common Prayer

    “I Require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured, that if any persons are joined together OTHER than as God’s Word doth allow, their marriage is NOT lawful.”
    -–Book of Common Prayer

    “Look at the legalized adultery we call divorce. Men marry one wife after another and are still admitted into good society; and women do likewise. There are thousands of supposedly respectable men in American living with other men’s wives, and thousands of supposedly respectable women living with other women’s husbands.”
    — R. A. Torrey

    R.A. Torrey
    Pastor and graduate of Yale University
    Superintendent of Moody Bible Institute for 19 years

    http://www.cadz.net/mdr.html

  10. Christa says:

    Mr. Harvey. Thank you for your blog about Amy Grant. I’ve been researching her story as it is similar to mine but has it’s differences. I was married to a man 18 years and divorced him 2 1/2 years ago for a man I was having an affair with. My ex-husband and I were involved in ministry at one time. He was an assistant pastor of the church we attended. Due to issues within the church along with the death of a very close relative of his, we ended up leaving the church and ministry all together. I had mixed feelings about the situation but I followed my husband. We have 3 daughters together so I continually tried to encourage him to help find a new church for our family. Eventually I found a church and began taking the girls on my own. After time, I began to resent him and I felt spiritually abandoned by him. I am by no means making excuses for my sin because I know my divorce was sin on my part. I ended up having an affair and leaving my ex-husband for this man. He and I are now married. I have asked forgiveness from God, my children, my ex-husband and our families. I know what I did was wrong. The hardest part was forgiving myself. I feel that I’ve come to that point now where I forgive myself but I humbly say I don’t know how I could enter back into ministry. I know God calls each of us to minister in one way or another but I have been so humbled by this experience and so ashamed of my sin. Sometimes I wonder who am I to tell another how to live after what I’ve done. I try to take one day at a time. I’m thankful for the life God has given me and the forgiveness He has given to each of us. My husband and I have both been forgiven and we are trying to live the best Christian life we can and raise our children to do the same. Do you have any advise you can give me?

    Sincerely,
    Christa

    • Byron says:

      Christa, I’m only checking this every few days. I will be more than happy to share some thoughts with you; give me a couple days and I’ll be more than happy to respond. One word now, though: yes, God does forgive, for His grace is amazing! Praise the Lord that you’ve come back to Him the way you did. Your story contrasts with (at least what I understand of) Ms. Grant’s story. More later!

    • Byron says:

      Christa,

      I’m sorry it has been longer than I meant it to be. Just a few thoughts:

      1. Christa, at the risk of upsetting you, can I gently suggest that the issue is not “forgiving yourself”. This is contemporary psychological terminology that finds no warrant in the Bible. Let me quickly say that I don’t know how you mean it, only to say that I hope I can persuade you to drop this phrase and thinking. What the issue is—and perhaps this is what you meant—is understanding and appropriating the unfathomable forgiveness that God offers to all repentant sinners through Christ. We can’t forgive ourselves—but He can forgive us, and promises to when we repent; it is our place to believe Him. It is our place to live in that incredible acceptance, that awesome forgiveness, that amazing grace.

      2. I don’t know that I’d characterize ministry as “telling another how to live”, but I get your point. The answer, it seems to me, is to speak the truth in love. Speak the whole truth: I am a wretched sinner by nature, but Jesus is a more awesome Savior than I am a wretched sinner, and because of what Jesus did, I am no longer identified by my sin (no matter how ugly); I am identified by my Savior. Nowhere does the Bible call us “sinners saved by grace”; to do that would be to label us by our sin. No, those who are redeemed by Christ are called “saints”. We are “set-apart ones”, set apart by and for God. That’s my identity. If I were to encourage you in this regard, I’d challenge you to do some study on the subject of who we are in Christ. Perhaps a book like “Christ Esteem” by Don Matzat or some book (don’t have one off top of my head to suggest) on the Christian’s identity would be great study material for you. But at any rate, the point is to point people to Jesus, not to yourself or your sin or even your forgiveness.

      There is a significant difference between yourself and Ms. Grant (let me hasten to add that I do not know of Ms. Grant’s situation—the questions about which I wrote in my essay remain unanswered, and I assume they always will). But what I do know of you is that you have done the things that Scripture calls us to do; “fruit in keeping with repentance” is a good Scriptural term for it. The fact that your attitude is right is shown by your reluctance to minister in some public way. It is that very fact, the fact that you’re hesitant because of your deep awareness of your faults, that makes you especially able to minister (as opposed to those who hide their sins, run from accountability, and then want to stand and “minister”, whoever they might be).

      Look, your sin was awful, horrible, and ugly. Isn’t everybody’s? Isn’t all sin? Isn’t that religious pride that would cause some people to reject you (because of your sin) even uglier than your act of desperation (methinks so)? And that’s precisely why grace is so amazing. Jesus (if John 8:1-11, a disputed text of Scripture, is indeed accurate) looked in the eyes of a woman caught in the very act, and said, “neither do I condemn you!” Then he added, “go, and sin no more.” Though Scripture doesn’t tell us, I’m betting that’s just what she did. And what you can—and I believe, will—as well. God bless, Christa!

  11. Carolyn Talley says:

    You quickly brush over Gary Chapman’s ” issues with substances ” and then focus on what Amy did and all the things you would tell her …….. allowing oneself to use drugs while writing Christian music , representing Christ in the music industry ……. being married to a Christian spouse who is in the public eye ??11?? What about those horrific choices. When you allow yourself to become addicted to an illegal substance , that is infidelity to the marriage. Ask anyone who has lived with a substance abuser — they have abandoned you for their love of the substance and often become verbally, emotionally abusive. He left the marriage by allowing that. I’m astonished at the Christian men out there who would see that and then blame the woman for not staying in the marriage …. I’ve never identified myself with the woman’s lib that brought about so much change in our society …… but when I see what many Christian men would expect a women to put up with including substance use and being treated horribly – likely abuse – I am thankful for it ! Christian men have had since the time of Christ to treat women appropriately …… and they never rose to the occasion ! it took a cultural revolution to bring about appropriate things like freedom to fair pay etc …… If Christian men did what they should be doing …….. Christian woman leaving them would be the LAST of their worries !!!!!!!!

    • Byron says:

      Didn’t expect a response to this “golden oldie” post, Carolyn, but I’m happy to respond. I would never begin to justify Gary’s substance abuse issues, whatever they were, and I certainly didn’t mean to do it in this post; I’m sorry that you see that in it. Certainly, compassion toward any woman (or man, for that matter) dealing with a substance-abusing spouse is an appropriate response. That said, we will have to agree to disagree as to whether this constitutes “leaving the marriage”. In so many ways, my post wasn’t per se about Amy Grant, but about the American church and its unwillingness to ask hard questions of folks it calls “members”. Thanks for posting, though!

  12. Kylie says:

    I know this is an old post but I feel compelled to comment. I agree with Carolyn’s comment wholeheartedly. Substance abuse is a deal breaker in a marriage. It is in part because the addict chooses the substance over everything that is suppose to be important but also because addiction always brings out other things: deception, lying, abuse (both physical and mental) and in some case theft. If anyone here doesn’t think that Chapman resorted to lying and deception while doing cocaine, you’ve either never dealt with an addict or never saw an episode of Intervention.

    I don’t proclaim to be a Christian. In fact, when I feel it might be the right path for me, I generally end up reading or hearing some hateful and bitter comments from self proclaimed Christians and end up changing my mind. I love God, I believe in Him but I can’t agree with or practice a religion where people routinely dismiss and abhor the idea that women should have the right to walk away from a situation that is painful and terribly unhappy. I don’t believe the God I know would want any of us to be lied to, deceived or talked down to by the one person who is suppose to love, honor and cherish us.

    My own parents divorced when I was 16 due to my father’s adultery and alcoholism. I’m glad my mother had the strength to leave a man who was supposedly a Christian but couldn’t live up to any of the things that a holy book said he should do. I’m also grateful that “women’s lib” happened because without it, women like my mother would be stuck living with disrespectful and sinful men like my father because she wouldn’t have had another choice. When I hear so called Christians saying that women’s lib messed everything up, I know it’s generally a man saying it because he now knows a woman no longer has to “just deal” because the good book told her to or because supporting herself and her children isn’t an option.

    I was under the impression that Christians were suppose to spread the word but seeing some of the comments here and elsewhere, I believe many of you use religion as a tool to control and dole out judgement. This opinion is not directed at the owner of this blog because you did present a well thought out and well written post and it’s clear you did try to err on the side of caution lest you offend someone.

    All that being said, Amy Grant or any Christian musician aren’t role models. She doesn’t owe anyone an explanation. If you want answers, why not look at which party is still together and which party has been married and divorced and remarried since the first divorce. There’s loads of scorn for Grant but seemingly none for Chapman. That’s always telling to me and is the number one reason why I will continue to search for my own spiritual path.

    • Byron says:

      Kylie, thanks for your post, and I hope to get a few minutes to give you a thoughtful reply. I do appreciate your kind words, and I am gratified that you understood that my point wasn’t by any means to “bash” Amy Grant. Hope to get back to you soon.

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